By Larry Clinton, Sausalito Historical Society
The history of our town is sprinkled with dreams and schemes that never quite became reality. A library on the Bay? A BART Station on the north side of Sausalito? These and other ill-conceived ideas are on display in the Historical Society’s new exhibit, “The Sausalito That Never Was.”
The exhibit was inspired by a file of half-baked notions compiled by Jack Tracy, founder of the Historical Society. Years ago, Tracy turned that file over to Jerry Taylor, the current SHS president. The file sat around gathering dust for decades, until Jerry and Ann Heurlin were inspired to capture some of the more noteworthy non-starters in an exhibit.
Some of the exhibit’s highlights include:
HEARST CASTLE was being built in Sausalito before the infamous newspaperman butted heads with the town council, and eventually pulled up stakes for San Simeon. The exhibit features Julia Morgan's drawing of the facade facing the water.
MINIING TOWN? Sausalito was already known as a source for fresh water and lumber when manganese deposits were discovered above Main Street in the late 1870s. Several mining tunnels were dug between present-day Prospect Avenue and Sausalito Boulevard, but the tunnels kept filling with water from the area’s many springs, and by 1893, the mines were abandoned.
FREEWAYS AND BRIDGES features drawings of freeways proposed between Alexander Avenue and Bridgeway from the 1930s and the 1950s. Imagine how any of these plans would have changed Sausalito forever.
MARINCELLO was a massive development planned for the former Fort Cronkite area, just west of Sausalito. The fight to prevent it, described in the film “Rebels with a Cause,” gave birth to the environmental movement in Marin. The exhibit includes artists’ renditions and maps of the proposed 30,000-resident development.
DOWNTOWN DREAMING examines past proposals for downtown remakes in the 60s and 70s, including using the ferryboat Berkeley as City Hall.
PLAYLAND ON THE BAY? Joseph Strauss, the genius credited with the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge, had some non-genius moments as well. In 1935 he proposed filling in the northern half of Richardson’s Bay to create an amusement park, coliseum and airfield in what he considered an “almost worthless” waterway. You can also read about how Marine World was originally to be located in Mill Valley before it was built in Redwood City and then moved to Vallejo.
After extensive research into these and other failed fantasies, the exhibit was hung by SHS Board Members James Scriba and Barbara Rycersky. It is open to the public Wednesdays and Saturdays from 10 AM to 1 PM on the top floor of City Hall.
A Chamber of Commerce mixer marked the opening of the new exhibit.
Photo by Herman Privette